There was a recent survey on lawyer billing efficiency of law firms with 50 or fewer lawyers, and it was revealed that many lawyers bill only for a fraction of their time worked.
In fact, the survey showed that the smallest firms with one or two attorneys, only billed for about 40 percent of their time.
So what happens to the other 60 percent and what are the takeaways for someone starting your own law firm?
A lot of a lawyer's time is lost through performance of non-billable and mundane tasks like recordkeeping, calling clients to collect money, handling technical glitches, and other things that pop up when running an office.
A solution for an attorney who is drowning in this non-billable but vital work may be to hire support staff. The salary you pay to your support is likely less than your billable rate. By freeing up your time with assistance, you allow yourself to make more money. Here are three positions you may want to hire when starting your own law firm:
Secretary. Screen your calls and have someone perform the filing and other work you don't have time to do. A good secretary becomes a part of you, anticipating your needs and helping your day run smoothly.
Law Clerk. Need to pull up some statutes or perform other straightforward duties? You may want to hire a law student or recent grad to assist you with these easy, but time-consuming, tasks. Just remember that your name goes out on your work, so review the work of your clerks and assistants carefully.
Paralegal. If you've ever practiced in a larger firm, you probably know that paralegals often perform the same work as attorneys. Very little of an attorney's day is spent researching and arguing novel issues. Instead, you're usually just retreading the same documents and arguments. A paralegal can help you set up documents and perform initial research for you.
If you feel like your day is being swallowed up by non-billable work, you may want to hire some assistance when starting your own law firm. Just do the math and make sure that your business (and potential business) justifies the hiring costs.